Week six on the ATP Tour delivers several indoor hard events as well as a clay tournament to look forward to, Dan Weston returns to preview the action...
"Ruud opens tonight against Pablo Andujar, and the market originally had this match mispriced, making our pick the underdog. He’s now been backed into favourite, which is hardly a surprise at all based on the above numbers."
Vesely rather lucky to triumph in Pune
There were tournament wins last week for Gael Monfils, Christian Garin and Jiri Vesely who lifted the trophies in the various tournaments across three continents. There's more triple continent action in store on week six.
However, before I discuss the coming week's tournaments, I want to discuss Vesely's tournament win in Pune - calling it 'variance-heavy' would be a dramatic understatement. Vesely won the event despite saving two match points against Ilya Ivashka and four against Ricardas Berankis, fighting back from 3-6 down in the final set tiebreak to win it 9-7 before edging a tight three-setter against Egor Gerasimov in the final.
The record books will show that the Czech man won the tournament, which obviously cannot be disputed, but I rather equate this win to a poker player winning a MTT despite getting their money all-in, pre-flop in bad shape on a repeated basis. Were they the winner? Yes. Were they the best player? More debatable.
This aptly shows the variance involved in five-match, best-of-three set tournaments, particularly in competitive tournaments where many contenders are of a relatively similar level. Interestingly, Vesely was the tournament favourite after the second round, yet started all three of his subsequent matches as a pre-match underdog - his final three accumulative starting prices were almost double his outright price at that stage. Sometimes they say it's better to be lucky than good, and it looks like this was the case for Vesely here.
Medvedev the market favourite in Rotterdam
This coming week's highlight tournament is undoubtedly Rotterdam, at ATP 500 level. There's an excellent 32 man field with no byes for the seeded players and Daniil Medvedev is the tournament favourite, currently trading at 3.7511/4 on the Exchange. The Russian man should be a solid market favourite based on the combined service/return points won on the surface, with him having a decent edge over the remaining main contenders:-
I'm anticipating conditions to be on the slow side of medium-paced, and with the exception of Medvedev, there isn't much between a lot of the main contenders. The bottom half of the draw looks extremely stacked, and Roberto Bautista-Agut (rated third via the metrics above) at 13.5 in quarter three looks a reasonable option compared to others such as David Goffin.
Raonic justified market leader in New York
The other indoor hard event this week takes place in New York, and I expect conditions to be markedly different. Historical data shows that court speed in New York is very fast indeed and should suit the big servers in the draw, of which there are quite a few.
Several of these headline the outright market, with Milos Raonic priced at 3.3512/5 and John Isner back at 6.611/2. Reilly Opelka also fits this bracket and the giant American is priced at 10.09/1 currently on the Exchange, while Kevin Anderson also does and he's around the 8.07/1 mark, although the South African man hasn't played much in recent months and it's tough to make a case for him based on data (his data in the table below is 18 month data, not 12 months due to this reason):-
Raonic looks justified as the clear market favourite, without an abundantly strong bottom half of the draw with three qualifiers and wild card Jack Sock, who has lost his ranking after failing to register a win in the last 12 months. It's an incredible fall from grace from a player previously ranked inside the top 10. Another player who has had a fall from grace is Bernard Tomic, and feel free to call me mad, but I think the Australian could do quite well here. His record in fast conditions is very strong compared to slower courts and Tomic needs to get past Go Soeda tonight in the final qualifying round to enter the main draw.
Cecchinato likely to struggle to defend
Moving on to Buenos Aires, we go from extremely quick conditions to extremely slow on the clay in Argentina. Aces per game and service points won percentages are down on the ATP clay mean and this should suit the return orientated clay court specialists in the draw. Most of the recent winners have much better records on clay than on other surfaces, and this is also the case for the majority of runners-up as well.
Last year Marco Cecchinato won the event but the Italian's career isn't in such good shape this time around and he's not even priced in the top 10 of the outright market on the Exchange. Beaten finalist last year (and also in Cordoba last week) Diego Schwartzman is the market favourite, at 4.47/2, with the likes of Guido Pella, Borna Coric, Dusan Lajovic and last week's winner in Cordoba, Christian Garin slightly further back.
Ruud with chances at a big price
My pick for this tournament is available at much bigger prices, with Casper Ruud priced at 25.024/1 on the Exchange at the time of writing, and a similar price in the general market. The Norwegian prospect has excellent clay court data - seen in the table below - and is on a nice upward curve in his career in general, having recently broken the top 50:-
Ruud opens tonight against Pablo Andujar, and the market originally had this match mispriced, making our pick the underdog. He's now been backed into favourite, which is hardly a surprise at all based on the above numbers. He has a winnable quarter including the aforementioned Cecchinato, Fernando Verdasco and the seeded Dusan Lajovic and he's more than capable of getting past these players on his best surface.
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Back Casper Ruud at around 25.024/1 to win ATP Buenos Aires